Unemployment hits 10.2 percent in Mesa County, highest of recession

Mesa County’s unemployment rate increased one-tenth of a percentage point month-over-month to 10.2 percent in December, reaching a new recession-era high for local unemployment.

The local employment tally increased from 70,000 people in November to 70,100 in December. The unemployment rate increased, though, because the area added 200 names to the ranks of the unemployed.

Not much changed in the unemployment rate because the spike in job openings that usually occurs between mid-November and mid-December simply didn’t happen this year, Mesa County Workforce Supervisor Gilbert Lujan said. Lujan said many retailers looking for holiday help gave more hours to existing employees rather than hire temporary workers.

“We’ve been in the range of 140 to 160 job orders for the last four or six months. The good news is it hasn’t gone down, but it hasn’t gone up,” Lujan said.

The unemployment rate also increased in December at the state level, moving to 8.8 percent, compared to 8.6 percent in November.

In December 2009, 7.3 percent of Colorado’s work force was unemployed. The 1.5-percentage-point, year-over-year increase was the largest in the nation for December.

Nine percent of Mesa County’s work force was unemployed in December 2009, when 900 fewer people were listed as unemployed in the county than were last month, and 1,800 more people were employed.

The number of continuing unemployment claims increased by about 200 people in December compared to November in Mesa County, but the number of first-time claims decreased by about 30 month-over-month.

“It seems everyone who can apply for unemployment has already,” Lujan said.


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